WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) – Recent polling suggests that the majority of people in the United States support the idea of legalizing marijuana.

CBS News is reporting that as much as 51 percent of Americans feel marijuana should be legal, while 44 percent feel it should continue to be considered an illegal drug.

These figures mark a significant shift over the course of the past two years. In 2011, the majority of Americans were said to have been against the legalization of pot.

Despite the increase, gaps between different demographics remain. For example, while more men and women alike support legalizing marijuana, more men are in favor of the notion than women. Similarly, increased support has been seen among all political groups, but Democrats are still more enthusiastic about the idea than Republicans.

The majority of Americans also agreed that the question of legalization should be left up to individual state governments, rather than the federal government.

The study’s findings were released not long after President Barack Obama said he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol, “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” the president said an interview with “The New Yorker” magazine.

Smoking marijuana is “not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,” Obama said.

Obama’s administration has given states permission to experiment with marijuana regulation, and laws recently passed in Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana recently went into effect. The president said it was important for the legalization of marijuana to go forward in those states to avoid a situation in which only a few are punished while a large portion of people have broken the law at one time or another.

Social Science Research Solutions conducted the poll on behalf of CBS News between Jan. 17 and Jan. 21 of this year. A reported 1,018 American adults were questioned on the matter.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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